Fact or Fiction? Will Heavy Squats Make Me Produce More Testosterone?

I always hear people talk about how doing squats will increase your body’s production of testosterone.  The gym is filled with so much “bro science” that it’s very difficult...

I always hear people talk about how doing squats will increase your body’s production of testosterone.  The gym is filled with so much “bro science” that it’s very difficult to pick real evidence apart from something that someone dreamed up at some point.  So…

Will heavy weight training with exercises that stress multiple, large muscle groups like squats make me produce more Testosterone?

According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, why yes it will.  Here’s the basic endocrinology.

Hormones are produced by endocrine glands in the body.  Once produced they work by floating around in your blood and eventually make it into a muscle cell in order to bind to a specific receptor for that hormone.  This binding signals the cell’s DNA.  In the case of anabolic hormones like testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factors the signal is to enhance the development of muscle protein contractile units (aka build some muscle!).

Stress from heavy resistance exercise increases anabolic hormone levels after exercise .  The amount of hormone released is going to vary based on:

  • The amount of muscle tissue stimulated
  • The amount of muscle tissue repair needed after exercise
  • Volume of work done in a training session
  • Amount of rest taken between sets
  • Training Age (How long you’ve been training for)

So what do we have to do to increase our body’s production of anabolic hormones?

  • Utilize large muscle group exercises (Deadlift, Cleans, Squats)
  • Heavy Resistance (85-95% of 1 rep max)
  • Moderate to High Volume of Exercises
  • Multiple sets and multiple exercises per session
  • Short Rest Intervals (30-60 seconds).  Longer rest periods will have similar effects but not as pronounced.

*Side Note: Training age refers to the research supporting that the only people getting these benefits were those who have been training already for 2 or more years.

Increased production of testosterone also promotes growth hormone response.  Testosterone and growth hormone also positively influence the production of insulin-like growth factor.  So as you can see weight training can cause a cascade of anabolic hormone release.

Increased anabolic hormone release is not the only benefit from heavy resistance training.  Resistance training increases blood flow to the muscle which in turn brings more anabolic hormones to their receptors in the muscle.  Heavy resistance training also increases the muscle cell’s ability to uptake nutrients (eg: Glucose via Glut-4 receptors), increases the cell receptor’s sensitivity to anabolic hormones (Less testosterone will cause a greater effect on the muscle) and over time an increase in the number of hormone receptors in the muscle cell (More receptors will form inside of the cell for these hormones to bind to).

Interestingly, insulin-like growth factor doesn’t seem to change much after training but does increase with carbs and protein immediately after training (So get your post-workout nutrition in gear too).

As you can see, heavy resistance exercise will really get your test levels up for about 30-60 minutes following heavy weight training exercise!  Keep in mind that you need to be doing exercises that really stress a lot of muscle mass at once.  For example, bench press elicited no hormonal changes whereas deadlifts did.  Fun stuff huh?

Deadlifts for days,

Dan Pope

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19 Comments on this post.
  • Dominik
    16 September 2012 at 10:26
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    Then again you probably should consider why people ask for this in the first place.
    Often it is the hope of increased muscle mass all over the body (or increased levels of aggression/goal striving) due to heavy compound lifts.
    But as we see in the gym with “upper body bros” with chicken legs and some Starting Strength trainees (huge legs, small upper body) (as well as with the actual biochem. mechanisms ) hypertrophy is mostly a local response to training stress.
    Therefore heavy lower body focused compound movements do tend to rather diminish upper body growth (less energy/recovery to work it).

    The importance and benefits of this increase in endogenous test levels are therefore probably very overstated. To actually generate a significant response we need several times the amount of test. (as seen with doping).

    • djpope
      16 September 2012 at 10:26
      Leave a Reply

      Hey Dominik, thanks for the excellent response. I took this info directly from the NSCA Essentials Text. Great point, whether this transient change in testosterone actually makes a significant change in our muscle mass, who knows. People really should be more concerned with picking a program that fits their needs. ie: If you want big arms don’t neglect curls for squats just because you might get a small boost in test. levels with the squat. Thanks again for the response.

  • Ironthumb
    8 February 2014 at 10:26
    Leave a Reply

    Chicken legs would end up getting bigger upper body had they also taken time with squats and deads.

    That is a guarantee!!!

    So the bottom line?
    Never miss deads and squats

  • TestoZilla
    10 August 2014 at 10:26
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    As for me, it is a fact. After adding heavy compound exercises to my workout plan, I noticed that my testo level increased.

  • guy
    29 September 2014 at 10:26
    Leave a Reply

    This is true, do heavy squats and deadlifts, eat a lot of fats and your testosterone will raise significantly

  • Chris
    21 October 2014 at 10:26
    Leave a Reply

    I agree that if you do your squats or dead lifts it will help with strengthening
    upper body development. Also eating 20 Almonds, 4 brazil nuts and 4
    whole boiled eggs within 30 minutes after training will help. Try getting a
    twenty minute power nap afterwards.

    Wake up and go get your wife! You will have her remembering your Zeus
    like performance!

  • Diogenes
    22 October 2014 at 10:26
    Leave a Reply

    Can you point out a publication in a peer reviewed medical journal that supports compound lifts increasing test and HGH? I dont doubt it being a deadlift addict but im being challenged on this.

    Thanks
    Diogenes.

    • djpope
      7 December 2014 at 10:26
      Leave a Reply

      Hey diogenes, have you tried searching in pubmed? This info is from the NSCA’s book which is heavily research based.

  • Karina
    1 April 2015 at 10:26
    Leave a Reply

    Does this pertain to women too?

    • djpope
      14 June 2015 at 10:26
      Leave a Reply

      Great question, I honestly am not sure. Ill try and get back to you when I have my NSCA book in my hands to check the studies.

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    9 September 2015 at 10:26
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  • Terry
    30 September 2015 at 10:26
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    Hello.

    I don’t agree with you when it comes to bench press no having any hormone

    Whenever I benchpress, I feel my testo level increase.

    • djpope
      1 November 2015 at 10:26
      Leave a Reply

      You may be an outlier but for the majority of people in the population studied they had no increase. I also feel it is hard to know if your hormonal levels increase immediately after bench press and if it does increase whether or not the bench is what did it.

  • Terry
    5 October 2015 at 10:26
    Leave a Reply

    bench press elicited no hormonal changes whereas deadlifts did. Fun stuff huh?

    I don’t agree with you. What is the base?

    • djpope
      1 November 2015 at 10:26
      Leave a Reply

      Evidence base. Just reporting what evidence on the topic showed.

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    22 June 2016 at 10:26
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  • Alexander
    13 September 2016 at 10:26
    Leave a Reply

    Nice article!

    Indeed the more muscle you activate the more testosterone! But it makes sense, the more muscle = the more testosterone also.

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